Tag Archives: Travel Inspiration

Travel Wishlist | Hiking Spots

Travel and dreaming of travel is a big part of my life – imagining where I might go is as fulfilling for me as actually going. I know I’m not the only one who gorges on wanderlust, so hopefully you can appreciate this post.

Here are some places I’m aching to visit – near and far in distance and time.

Have you been to these glorious spots? Tell me everything!

Baden Baden.jpgBaden Baden, South-West Germany.
The plan? Spend a day or two wandering wide-eyed around the beautiful Bavarian streets. Hitch a train to the Black Forest and hike a few days between campsites, eating the local things, practicing my (very bad) German.

Basecamp.jpg

Everest Basecamp, Nepal.
The plan? Head to Kathmandu via Kolkata (Hi India, see you soon!) Board the impossibly tiny plane for the nail-biting flight to Lukla, throw on our boots and find out whether we can conquer the Himalayas. Ethically. See here.

Snowdonia.jpg

Snowdonia National Park, North Wales.
The Plan? Have some delicious Welsh food, hit the trails of Snowdon, walk all weekend and then move on to Ben Nevis. Not on the same day…

Loughhyne.jpg

Lough Hyne, County Cork, Ireland.
The plan? More hiking, but also this is one of the nearest places you can observe Bioluminescence, so naturally I have to go and see it. It doesn’t hurt that Cork is one of the loveliest places I’ve ever visited.

I’m conscious these are very hike-related travel wishes – thats just what I’m lovin’ at the moment.
Been to any of these places? Share some tips!!

Kitty

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Ethical Everest : Is It Possible? 

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve had the spirit of adventure burning in me – whether that be the desire to dive coral reefs, wander slowly around ancient ruins or lose myself among the wilderness. I have a deep respect for this planet, so adventure is sometimes a conundrum for me – how do you visit places without damaging them or putting them at risk? How do you really leave only footprints, take only photographs?

Carbon footprints, destruction of animal and plant-life, exploitation of local people and cultures… all of these things are real concerns for me when travelling.

Lately Mr K and I have been taken with the idea of trekking to Everest Basecamp. The subject of much news coverage in recent years, there has been a real, important discussion about the ethics (and safety) of climbing Everest and I wonder whether it’s even possible to tackle this peak (entirely, or to basecamp) in a responsible, respectful way. If you need to frame the issue, the 2015 documentary Sherpa (Jennifer Peedom) is very insightful.

The Sherpa community are crucial support lines for anyone climbing Everest – they have the skill and experience (and the acclimatisation) to deal with sticky situations at tricky altitudes. This expertise is sometimes used for setting up camp and sometimes for hauling non-essential luggage and luxuries for the tired mountaineers. You might say they are responsible for the survival of visitors, which to me indicates they should be treated with utmost respect (and paid accordingly). There’s no denying that a Sherpa’s income is, in comparison with the local average, life-changing. But so is the risk. Nobody should have to face death for the sake of carrying someone’s television up a mountain.

Aside from being used as a glorified donkey, Sherpa are also entrusted with leading groups of climbers to the summit of Everest – and often nipping back-and-forth from camp to camp, fetching Oxygen and assisting poorly mountaineers. All the while putting themselves at immense risk, spending much time away from their families.

The Nepalese government have vowed in past years to tighten up restrictions on climbers with insufficient physical skill or experience to safely scale Everest – and rightly so – however a popular Western attitude that Money = Ability means that many aspiring climbers can prove they’ve tackled some other monstrous peaks, thus gaining access to Everest. It doesn’t mean they didn’t get excessive physical support at those times though. Climbing Kilimanjaro is not to be compared with climbing K2. Although it’s a step in the right direction, it still somehow seems irresponsible to expect a Sherpa to risk their lives for a potentially incapable, unprepared climber.

My solution? If you’re not fit enough to carry your own kit & oxygen… you’re not fit enough to climb Everest. Or walk to Basecamp.
If you’re not honest or responsible enough to acknowledge that you’re suffering altitude sickness, or any other conditions (like toothache, or a cough), you’re not ready to tackle the climb.

On the flipside, for experienced and genuinely capable climbers, the Sherpa community benefits greatly from the tourism factor of Everest – where respectfully conducted. Where the other main income sources are tourist tea-houses and farming, being a mountain guide is an attractive prospect in Nepal. The guides earn good money, and the streams of tourists coming in to view the mountain or enjoy less physical treks in the lower Himalayas spend welcome money in the community.

But, as we all know, with tourism comes trash – and Westerners often forget that to the locals, Everest is a sacred place. Reports in past years have shown huge amounts of rubbish and human waste left at Everest camps, forcing the Indian army to execute a cleanup mission. How terribly disrespectful to litter in a place of worship – imagine the outrage – food packets, water bottles and faeces left in a Church, or at Lourdes. Diabolical!

Much of the time, you’re partly reliant on tour operators to be up-front and honest about their approach to employee wellbeing and their clean-up policy… and basically their overall goodness and dedication to preserving the integrity of such a beautiful place.

Recently I spoke with a Nepali “ex-Sherpa” and Himalayan Mountain Rescue team member who had spent several years on Everest, he spoke positively about the impact of responsible and respectful tourists on Everest. He was of the opinion that there are some Nepali trek operators who plan ethical, local-friendly trips in the area – and the key is to book locally, through a guide who will be taking you (or at least through a company who can tell you the name of your dedicated guide). Tip well, mentally prepare as you physically prepare, do your share of the slog, and be honest about your condition and ability.

My conclusion? I’m inclined to believe what the locals tell me, and hope they say what they think.
I don’t see throwing money at a feat as a true accomplishment – did you really climb Everest if you were carried there? If you’re clued up, physically able and genuinely have a lust to visit, then you can do the trip successfully without harming anyone. If you look for shortcuts (be it money, time or effort driven) someone/something is going to get hurt.
I suppose in an entirely different way, I will find out  the coming months as we plan our own ethically-driven trip to Nepal.
Stay tuned for that, and please share any opinions, insights or experience on this type of trip – everything helps!

Kitty

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Travel | Things to Do in Krakow, Poland.

Wawel Castle, Krakow

Krakow is a beautiful and underrated city. Fact.

I first visited when I was about 17 and since then I’ve been under its medieval spell – it has such a simple way about it, but such a rich history. It’s also relatively tiny, in terms of cities, so it’s the perfect place to spend a short winter break.

Here’s how to get the absolute best out of Krakow in 4 days.
However, on my recent trip, this happened, so photos of some of the things aren’t available, because it was all I could do to keep my eyes open, let alone take pictures.

View from Hotel Matejko

Where to stay? For me, it has to be the Hotel Matejko on Jana Matejki Plaza, which is roughly a 3 minute walk from the main streets, and less than that to the big shopping center. I’ve stayed there 3 times, and it’s consistently clean, warm and has a well stocked breakfast. It isn’t fancy by any means, but it’s pleasant and very affordable. It does book up very quickly, though.
It’s situated next to a couple of nice bars and cafes too, to it’s handy if you want to escape the bustle of the main square.

Pod Zlota Pipa, Krakow

What to eat? Polish food is hearty and delicious – I highly recommend grabbing a bite in the Pod Zlota Pipa on Florianska Street. It’s reasonably priced, great food and the bar itself is really cool (it used to be a coal bunker). Head there on Saturday nights for live Jazz.
For on-the-go eating, be sure to grab one of the readily available dough knots that are sold just about everywhere in the city. They cost around 30p and are very tasty.

Manufaktura Czekolady Krakow Chocolate Croissant
Also be sure to check out the Manufaktura Czekolady cafe on Szewska which will speak for itself.
Finally, if you’re looking to try something new, a walk down to the Jewish quarter opens up a massive selection of kosher cuisine. I have it on good authority that the Gefilte Fish is an experience.

Wawel Castle, Krakow

Things to do? Krakow is littered with history, art and significant locations. The obvious trip to take is to the Auschwitz museum and Birkenau camp – but the format has changed this year. Be sure to pre-book your tickets here otherwise you wont be able to enter between 10am-2pm. It’s an easy enough trip to make without a pre-paid tour, but often they are less hassle.

Wawel Castle Dragons Den Krakow

Another must-see is the Wielkzikcka Salt Mine, which sounds really dull, but is actually completely incredible. You can take 2 routes – the tourist route which takes you through tall caverns and to a beautiful underground cathedral, or the miners route which is a little more athletic.

The Wawel Castle (I think this means “royal castle”) is a gorgeous place to spend an afternoon – there’s a beautiful cathedral inside, plus tons of medieval artefacts. They also have the most impressive armoury that I’ve ever seen. If nothing else it’s worth heading there for a view of Krakow from the tower.

Krakow Town Square

If you enjoy watching the world go by, or a spot of shopping for “the local thing” the town square is a great place to get a coffee or pick up some gifts from the indoor fabric market (it sells more than fabric these days!). Most Saturdays it’s bustling with street performers and other oddities, but it’s quieter during the week or on Sundays.

Krakow Parks

The parks are also beautiful and are still used as parks. It’s not uncommon to see people just taking a stroll, grabbing lunch or just sitting enjoying some R&R in one of the many parks in Krakow. Squirrels are abundant, and if you’re a dog person this is a great place for pooch watching too!
The parks are also a great place to pick up the bread knots I mentioned earlier.

So, despite being blind(ish) we had a lovely weekend in Krakow. We met some lovely people, ate some really lovely food and explored as well as we could. For such a small city, 4 days isn’t enough to really enjoy the charm – but it’s a good place to start.

Trust me, your first visit will not be your last!

Final KITTY suggestive digestive-01

 

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